The cistern is a closed, airtight place for storing water, and it has openings for drawing water from it. The Roman cistern in particular has three openings – one for the water outlet, a hole for water intake, and a ladder opening for cleaning. The type of archaeological cistern discovered in the Church of the Virgin Mary in Haret Zuwaila is a large main Roman cistern, not a small cistern like the ones discovered under the houses in the past.
This cistern was discovered after careful surveying of the church and thanks to studies at the Institute of Coptic Studies – Department of Architecture. A void was reached on the north western side of the church and the necessary plans and sections were prepared and drawn.
To access the cistern is through a room that was used as a cafeteria in the church courtyard and its walls were covered with fodder from wood and aluminum sheets, and after removing these materials, it was found that the void leading to the cistern was filled with water.
Thanks to the state’s project to reduce the level of undergroundwater in the area and the sewage repair project on Al-Kharunfeesh Street, the level of this water was reduced and did not return again, and from here we were able to enter this cistern.
The discovered cistern has an area of about 80 square meters, and the ground level is 8 meters lower than the street level. It is built of load-bearing walls and topped with vaults and domes of municipal bricks, and its walls are covered with paint that does not allow water to pass through or seep in.